These days it seems everyone is gaga over survivor cars, especially those with a nice helping of patina. This has led to the overuse of the term, and even to some people creating fake patina. What is a survivor car though? And what makes it so special? Paul N’s post on the 1954-55 International Travelall got me thinking about the significance of survivors. He commented that vehicles such as this International are historically authentic. It seems it stirs up memories of how he remembers many of these workaday vehicles. And that’s when it hit home for me.
While that particular international may be historically authentic in Paul’s area of the world, that’s just not the case for my stomping grounds. That’s why I found this particular vehicle incongruous, residing in Ontario, Canada like I do. Old cars and trucks in Ontario didn’t age with nice patina like that International and I guess that’s why I have never found much appeal or connection with cars loaded with patina.
Where I grew up, vehicles rusted rotted from the bottom up. I remember old cars loaded with big holes, rusty frames, rotten floorboards, to the point that they usually fell apart around solid mechanicals. Rust was always bad. It was also often like an iceberg, with the visible rust being nothing compared to the rust hidden within and on the vehicles underside. While not all cars disintegrated into piles of iron oxide, the cars that survived years of use looked more like the subject of this post, this 1974 Mercury Meteor.
It was surprisingly hard to find images genuine rusted out cars, but this one is pretty close to how cars rusted out in my area
This Meteor was far from perfect, but it was historically authentic, and in my eyes a true Ontario survivor. How fitting that this example is also a Canadian only model. This is how I remember these cars before they went almost complete extinct. The survivors were typically owned by an older owner who had the experience, money and patience to keep his vehicle in decent shape. Owners often invested in a “body job” or better yet got it repainted when the rust was starting to rear its ugly head. Of course this work was rarely done to the standards restorers use today, but it was good enough to keep the car looking nice.
Before I discuss the subject car, let’s switch gears. While I am sure most that frequent CC are familiar that Canada had its own variations of FoMoCo products, I am going to go through a brief history of the unique Canadian standard sized Ford brands to refresh your memory. In 1946 Ford of Canada released two new Canadian only models, the Mercury 114 and the Monarch. The Mercury 114 was a 114” wheelbase Ford, dressed up to look like a Mercury. While it looked as if it shared some parts with its 118” sibling the two cars were related in name only. The purpose of this car was to allow Mercury-Lincoln dealers in Canada to have a low-priced car. Canada’s sparse population meant that some areas may not have had a Ford franchise nearby to sell low-priced cars.
1946 Monarch Sedan – the most popular body style for that year
The Monarch was the opposite of the Mercury 114. It used a Mercury body and chassis, but it had unique trim to differentiate it from other Mercurys. This car allowed for Ford dealers to offer a medium priced car, which again helped in areas that may not have had a Mercury-Lincoln dealer nearby.
For 1949, the Mercury 114 was rebranded as the Meteor. The Meteor followed the same concept, being a low-priced brand for Mercury-Lincoln dealers. However, the 1949 Meteor pretty much looked like a 1949 Ford with Mercury style grille. As time went on, the Meteor used fewer Mercury styling cues, and looked more like a Ford with alternate grilles and trim. The new models worked well to ensure Ford of Canada had good market coverage.
1957 Meteor Rideau 2-door Sedan
Ford followed this formula until 1961, however, things changed for the 1962 model year. With the introduction of the Mercury Meteor senior compact, the use of the Meteor as a brand name for Mercury’s low priced car would be confusing. As a result production of the Meteor and Monarch ended. Monarch sales were never overly strong, and for 1961 Monarch sales were a meagre 25% of the total Meteor sales. Ford dealers likely never had as much of an issue with volume as the Canadian Mercury-Lincoln dealers. So elimination of Monarch was a logical choice.
Mercury dealers would miss their low price Meteor as it was quite a good seller. For 1963, Mercury dealers in Canada got a bit of a reprieve when history repeated itself. Ford of Canada introduced a new low-price Mercury called the Mercury 400. Unlike the old Mercury 114 though, these cars actually used Mercury bodies. It was essentially a stripper Mercury, comparable to the US market Mercury Monterey but even more basic. Unlike the US Mercury Monterey, the Mecrury 400 came standard with a 223 six and had an option 352-2V before the 390 was reached on the option list. Despite Ford of Canada doing very little promotion or marketing of the 400, it ended up making up nearly a third of Canadian Mercury sales.
With the success of the 1963 400 and the senior compact Mercury Meteor ending production after the 1963 model year, Ford of Canada decided to bring back the Meteor marque. Replacing the Mercury 400, the new Meteor was no longer based on a Ford. From 1964 onwards the Meteor was chiefly a stripped down Mercury. A ’64 Meteor differed from a ’64 Mercury by using Ford instrument panels, less expensive interior ornamentation and a base six cylinder engine. The wholesale price of a Meteor was $50 more expensive than a base Ford. The Meteor was directly marketed against GM of Canada’s highly successful Pontiac line. While Mercury/Meteor sales didn’t surpass Pontiac for 1964, it did jump significantly from the 1963 Mercury numbers.
1965 Meteor Montcalm 2-door hardtop
1965 Meteor Rideau 4-door Sedan
The decision to drop the senior compact Mercury Meteor for the 1964 model year was a last-minute one. As a result, Ford of Canada had little time to differentiate the ’64 Meteor from the Mercury. For 1965, with more time at hand, the Meteor saw a number of changes to help distinguish the brand. This included using Ford’s sedan roofs instead of Mercury’s with the reverse backlites, a unique grille, tail lights and bumper, a Ford instrument panel, Ford soft trims, and a base six cylinder engine.
1966 Meteor Montcalm Convertible
1969 Meteor Montcalm Convertible
This practice continued throughout the 1960’s although for 1967 and 1968 the Meteor styling was getting closer to the Mercury’s. For 1969, the US market Mercury Monterey had different front end styling than the other big Mercs. Ford of Canada decided that the Meteor would take on the same appearance as the base level Monterey, albeit continuing to offer even lower priced trim and engines.
1970 Mercury Meteor Montcalm 2-door hardtop
For 1970, Meteor lost it individual branding and now was referred to as the Mercury Meteor, although it was still consider a separate marque from Mercury. Although previous model year Meteor’s had essentially mirrored the Canadian Ford engine line-up, this was no longer the case for 1970. The base engine was a 240-six for the 1970 Ford, but the Meteor’s base engine was upgraded to the 302-2V V8. The Meteor carried on using this same formula until 1976. There were a few changes of significance one of which was upgrading the base 302-V8 to a 351-2V in 1973. After the discontinuing of the US Market Monterey for 1975, the Meteor used its own distinctive grille and trim styled in a similar fashion to the 1974 Monterey. It continued to use exposed headlights as opposed to the covered lights on the remainder of the Mercury line.
1974 Mercury Meteor Montcalm station wagon – only 278 produced
The Canadian market had evolved considerably from the 1960’s and more and more people were buying cars outside of the low price field. As a result the importance of the low-priced Mercury became less important. Consequently in 1977, the Meteor was diluted further and renamed the Mercury Marquis Meteor, and lots it’s status as an independent marque. They were now just a base model Mercury, and as a result production numbers weren’t differentiated from the rest of the Mercurys. The 77’s used the covered lights and was very hard to distinguish from other Mercurys. This practice continued until the Mercury Marquis Meteor was discontinued after 1981. While all of previous Canadian Meteors were built-in Fords Oakville plant, ironically from 1977 to 1981, all Mercury Marquis Meteors were built-in St. Louis, alongside other Mercs.
I came across this subject car this past summer, in amongst the usual car show fare. While I am not really a big fan of the big 1970’s land yachts, I have to admit I was immediately drawn to this car when I saw it. While the streets used to be loaded with big American iron like this, the number that have survived is far and few between.
I spoke with the owner, and he had newly acquired the car. He told me the car live most of its life in the Toronto area and owned by an elderly gentleman who he described as being like a father. The car had been parked for some time now, and the owner just inherited and got it back on the road. While it shows up fairly nice in the photos, it is a true Ontario survivor. Inspecting more closely, hidden under the paint and vinyl roof were rust blisters and other blemishes that are common in our salty environment. I suspect the car was likely repainted at some point in its life.
The 1974 Meteor line-up was made up of two model lines, the Rideau 500 and the Montcalm. The Rideau 500 was the entry level trim and it consisted of a 2-door hardtop, 4-door sedan and 6-passenger wagon. The pricier Montcalm was offered in the same three body styles. The engine line-up consisted of the 351-2V, 400-2V and the 460-4bbl. The subject car had a 351-2V, in this case a 351C. When one selected a 351-2V from 1970-74 on the option list of a full-size or intermediate Ford, you could end up with either a 351W or 351C. It seems the 351W was more common in the full size fords while the 351C was more common it the intermediates. 1974 also marked the last year for the 351C, which was replaced by the tall deck 351M variant in 1975.
1974 Mercury Meteor Rideau 500
For 1974 there were a total of 11,046 Meteors produced, a significant drop from the 1973 model year. This Rideau 500 2-door hardtop was one of 2996 cars, the second most produced model, next to the Rideau 500 4-door sedan. Ever since Meteor’s reintroduction in 1964, it had averaged about 25,000 – 30,000 cars until 1969 (peaking in 1965 at 32,628 cars). From 1970-73 production numbers dropped off, but it consistently averaged in the neighbourhood of 15,000 cars, before consistently dropping off each year until 1976.
While I still don’t ever have a desire to have any rust on any of my vehicles, at least the rust on this car was genuinely authentic; a real Ontario survivor. And I suppose if the new owner keeps the car in a climate controlled environment, the rust will likely keep at bay. For those reasons, I can appreciate this car as is with its “Ontario Patina” for its historical significance.
Vince, thanks for this great post! I really enjoyed learning about the Canadian Mercury products in such detail–it amazes me how much effort went into creating specialized “north-of-the-border” products.
I definitely admire this survivor, especially given its home base. As a kid from the Deep South, I am always surprised to see any full or mid-sized car without A/C. The cars in Louisiana almost always had air conditioning and they rusted (more slowly) from the “top down” with water getting trapped around rear windows and deck lid trim, etc. so the rockers were fine while the roof and trunk lids weren’t. I had a Great Aunt who lived in Western Massachusetts and was partial to Plymouth–it was also my first exposure to a true “Northern” car. She had a ’71 Satellite with no air conditioning and I remember seeing it in the mid-1970s with rust all along the bottom of the car, from stem to stern. She basically kept her cars until they “rusted through” which was a completely foreign concept to me.
Great write-up, I thought I had a pretty good idea about what was going on with the Canadian Meteor and the Monarch. I had always assumed both models were sold by the same dealers as part of the same brand….like New Yorker and Newport. That does clear up why some years these cars looked like Ford’s with more “gingerbread” and some years they looked like stripper Mercurys….they were 2 different cars (Or am I still confused?)
Towards the end of the line for these cars they looked so much like Fords that you have to wonder why Ford even bothered making a separate car, just slap a Ford badge on a Mercury.
It sounds like you understand. To simplify, from 1949-61, the Meteor was basically a Ford with unique grilles and trim. From 1964-76, the Meteor was basically a stripper Mercury that used a Ford engine line-up, unique trim, and sometimes other Ford parts (roof, dashboards, etc).
I’m not sure I agree fully with the term “stripper Mercury”. Some models were appointed to LTD Brougham levels (Montego, LeMoyne) and the Montcalm used either LTD or Galaxie interiors (depending upon the year)
CC Effect, I found this newly posted yesterday. And a full range of options was offered, except no AC before 1968. Oakville wasn’t set up for it.
Bear in mind US Fords could have integrated AC since 1965.
oops, forgot the link.
I was trying to summarize a whole slew of cars in a couple of words, I didn’t mean it that literally. Then again, I forgot there was that stripper car discussion on here earlier. Nevertheless, a Meteor was not as well equipped, model for model compared to a Mercury. This is what I was trying to convey.
Perhaps a better choice of words would have been to say the 64-76 Meteor was a Mercury that used Ford-like trim and equipment.
That blue 65 convertible looks an awful lot like an Imperial…
Nicely written piece, who knew there were so many different cars in the Great White North?!?
Those pictures of rusty iron looked very familar; that’s the way ’60s and ’70s cars normally rusted here in the UK too. Give a new car five years driving though four or five winters and you’d be lucky not to have blistered wheel arches or small holes in the sills and wings.
As a child there was always something about the 1957 Meteor that fascinated me, especially about the ages of 10-13 (1960-63). I supposed it’s because I was following lots of hot rod magazines in those days, and the Meteor struck me as being a ’57 Ford after some motivated high schooler decided to hot rod his first car.
Not particularly attractive compared to the Ford original, but different. Which would have been very important to a 16-17 year old in 1962. During those years, the annual family vacation would take us to Ontario and Quebec a couple of times, so I got to see these cars in the metal, not just pictures in dad’s NADA books.
Those were the fun vacations. The family is all turned on to seeing various tourists sites (especially Catholic shrines in Quebec), while all I wanted to do was go thru the local used car lots, where I’d get to see all sorts of cars that never showed up in Johnstown, PA.
These vacations were the basis of my lifelong fascination with the British car industry. And it’d be fun on a quiet summer evening, to listen to dad talking shop with the salesman at the local dealership.
I’m pretty sure the AMT model kit of the ’57 Ford included the Meteor grill as one of the “custom” parts.
I have never seen one in person, but did run across a ’59 years ago. That replaces the little stars in the Ford grill with rectangles much like the Mercury, and may actually be more attractive.
The Meteors were styled in Dearborn, as Ford of Canada had not styling department. I often wondered if the stylists were able to try some of there more far out ideas on the Meteors, that maybe wouldn’t have worked on a US Market Ford.
Northern Indiana was a great environment for rusty cars. Those who could afford it traded every 2-5 years and those who couldn’t either learned how to do Bondo or just lived with the expanding holes. Starting in the late 60s Fords became the worst.
I went on a family vacation to Canada about 1973. It was my first exposure to the Meteor Montcalm and Rideau 500. Most of the ones I saw were from the mid 60s.
Here is another good picture of a rusty car from that era.
Pffff… it’s not rusty until the mirrors fall off under their own weight!
Nice find JP, and a ’72 Torino to boot! 😉 I was searching google trying to find rusty Ford’s but all I came up with a lot of Cutlasses. For what it’s worth, the frame picture I used is a rusted out 1965 Ford chassis. I agree the Fords were the worst from the late 1960’s to the mid 1970’s.
Sweet, sweet, sweet. Apart from the color, there is an awful lot to like about this true survivor. And at this point, the color is irrelevant in the big scheme of things.
If it helps any, these were highly rust prone even in the relatively more temperate area where I grew up. Ford perfected being rust prone in the late 1960s with the 1973 and 1974 models being their masterpieces.
Thank you for the explanation of Mercury / Meteor history in Canada. The half-dozen or so times I’ve been to Canada has always brought a certain automotive intrigue – “wow, that Pontiac Tempest looks just like a re-badged Chevrolet Corsica!”.
Fords of this era were the worst. There was a class action lawsuit launched in the 70’s because they were so bad. Ford did get there act together in the late 70’s and vastly improved their rust resistance. While almost no mid-70’s Fords seemed to have survived here, the late 70’s stuff has held up well for the era.
Yup, looks totally normal to me, particularly the rust 🙁
Although that Olds should have the rear bumper dragging on the ground from the frame rusting out just behind the rear wheels. An the bottoms of those big doors would become detached from rust and go “Whack-ack-ack-ack” when you closed the door.
Thanks for the Canadian Mercury review. There was a 46 Monarch sitting outdoors on a trailer locally for a few years, but it disappeared. Hope it got fixed.
There were tons of the A/G-bodies with rotten and broken rear frame sections. It was a bad design. The rails bent out towards the outer edge of the car behind the wheel well, causing it to get hammered with road slush, water and salt. I had a friend who’s Cutlass Supreme chassis broke off completely when driving. I helped him rig it up to get home, and told him to scrap the car. He drove it held together with bailing wire for at least another year.
You can see the rear section of the chassis here:
Great piece, Vince, and I love the Canadian nomenclature. Those names, perhaps by being French in origin, seem to have a bit more class from the ones we saw stateside.
Also, that ’75 Meteor Montcalm looks a *lot* like a similar-year Chevy Impala from the front.
I’m almost shocked, in a good way, at how not-rusty my 2008 Toyota Yaris is for an almost 10 year old Vermont car. There’s a little hint of surface rust on the driver’s door sill where the paint gets worn off from my foot dragging over it; I use rust converter every year or so there to keep after it.
Wow, brings back a lot of memories. My family had a dark blue ’64 Meteor 2-door sedan with the reverse-slant back window and a green ’69 Meteor Rideau 500 wagon. They were both massive, and very spartan – no A/C and no creature comforts. Like all cars in the Toronto area, they bio-degraded pretty quickly with all the salt the city dumped in the winter.
We never had one, but the other Canadian Ford that I always wanted was a ’60 Ford Frontenac – a Falcon with a unique grille. https://www.curbsideclassic.com/automotive-histories/canada-day-classics-canadian-ford-branding-history/
Great article. Thre minor correction points-The Mercury 400 would have had a 223 six, not the 240, which debuted in 1965. Also, the blue convertible above is a 1966 model. Finally, the 1964 Meteor also used a Ford dash.
It wasn’t until ten or so years ago I was even aware of the 400. They were rare on the prairies, and were best spotted by the non-retractable breezeway window. It seems that western buyers were more apt to step up to a Monterey Custom.
Meteors were forbidden fruit in our family, as my dad dealt at the Ford dealer, not Mercury. Meteors were all over the prairies when I was growing up, and were always seen as a half-step above a Ford. My uncle Harry, who lived in Ottawa owned a 1973 Montcalm and I was regaled with his war stories of battles with the tinworm, including frame patches. My most vivid memory of it was when him and my aunt came out west to visit us in the summer of ’76. He had just purchased it (used) and was all proud of it. Couple of days after they arrived, they pull up to the house with the right sided of it completely wiped out. Apparently my aunt effed up at a 4-way stop, and instead of stopping after the initial -low speed corner-to-corner collision, put her foot down and sliced it open bumper-to-bumper.
It looked like someone took a can opener to it. They had no choice but to drive it back to Ontario that way.
Thanks for the correction Roger, I missed that. It’s funny how I can read my same mistakes so many times and not notice them. I should hire you as my copy editor.
Great article once again. The ’75 and ’76 Meteors used the front end of the defunct-for-1975 US Monterey with a grille that was never used on a US-market car. Perhaps the last really different Canadian Mercurys. Also notice that the ’66 Meteor did away with the fake fender vent/cornering lights used on the US cars. Same is true for 1967.
Great write up. Those 70s Meteors are seriously rare these days. Lower production and less reason for folks to save them I suppose.
Amazing how cars today don’t rust away like the “good old days”. Took some time before makers improved metal, but was a “planned obsolescence” to guarantee future new car sales.
That 1960 Meteor illustration looks like Canadian native Bruce McCall’s work. You can especially see his style in his people’s faces. He did illustrations for Ford in Toronto in the 1950s. In the early 1970s he became well known in the National Lampoon for pieces like the Bulgemobile brochure.
I remember the Bulgemobile well —
As college freshmen, we were in hysterics over this issue of the Lampoon in ’71 or ’72 !
Yes me too, in April ’72.
My dad knew it was time to ditch the ’49 Pontiac when we could look thru the rusted floor-boards at the base of the gas pedal, and see the road beneath.
By now it was 1961, and the Star Chief was replaced by an Austin 850 (Mini.)
Wow, moving from the big Pontiac into an original Mini, he must have been all over the road for a minute.
We once had a ’68 Ford XL 428 (which I liked to think of as a “sports aircraft carrier”) and a ’68 Fiat 850 Spyder at the same time, and Dad never did quite get used to stepping from the sublime to the ridiculous. One cylinder of the XL had more displacement than the whole Fiat.
What a great summary of the Meteor! I have always been fascinated by these cars since first seeing one in Northern California back in ’77. It looked like a Marquis, but said Meteor in place of the usual Marquis emblems.
As the owner of a ’73 Marquis Brougham, I’m particularly happy that you found a similar Canadian version still out there, roaming the streets. And, by the way, that silver ’73 Meteor in the posted photo is actually a special 25th Anniversary edition.
Do you have any information on the 25 anniversary cars? I couldn’t find anything. I do have a photo of one sitting in front of Ford’s central office building in Oakville, Ontario. The caption just mentions that it was celebrating 25 years of Meteor, but give no other details.
My great uncle had one of them new. It was a silver two door hardtop with black vinyl roof as in the pic (I don’t think the oval opera windows in the C pillar of that example are original – does the photo you have show them?). As I recall there was a 25th anniversary emblem on the dash but nothing else distinctive.
Actually the 25 Anniversary WAS special-it used a Marquis Brougham interior much like this.
The top level Montcalm interior that year was identical to the Galaxie 500, except the dash, which for ’73 was switched to Mercury in all trim levels.
Thanks for this. I looked through the 1973 Meteor brochures, books and other resources, but nothing I had went into the detail of what the 25th Anniversary cars actually came equipped with.
The photo I have does not have opera windows either, but I would think they would remain an option.
Finally! Graphic confirmation of the illusive ‘63 Mercury 400! On page 361 of “The Cars of Lincoln-Mercury” by Dammann and Wagner is a paragraph describing the 1963 Mercury 400 as “an austerely appointed Monterey with fixed rear window….two and four door sedans…with the 223 cid I-6 as base engine.”
Note in the advertisement image: no window track bars in the rear window opening! Even base model Monterey’s with fixed rear windows had window bars, the glass held by simple gaskets.
Well, now we know where all the left-over components from the 1961-’62 Mercury six cylinder foray went when the American ’63 Mercury returned to V8 engines only, foist them off on the Canadian buyers! The franchise Meteor dealers must have been an angry bunch having Meteors to sell, then none for a couple years, then more Meteors to sell. Bets are many ditched the franchise for a Pontiac dealership if one became available.
Wow—feels like three articles’ worth of content–a great primer on the Ford/Mercury/Canada thing.
Rust: This all echoes my Great Lakes 1950s-60s-70s experience, though it’s hard to be “nostalgic” about it.
I can add no add’l knowledge (or gentle corrections) to Canada/Mercury tale; I’ll just share this ’55 ad—sure makes the car look longer/lower than we know it to be:
I think my favorite Meteor is the ’61, because I feel like I am looking at the ’61 Edsel that could have been. I know there is no evidence that the Meteor is a repurposed Edsel design, but nevertheless, if you asked someone to design a ’61 Edsel off the Ford shell, much like the ’60 Edsel was done, there is a good chance it would have ended up looking like this.
The rear end of the ’61 Meteor is pretty strange, but the front end with the widely-spaced headlights is something else!
OK, that is just scary! I am sure I have seen this before, at least in period ads and such, but I must have blocked it out of my memory. There are not many cars that would lose a beauty contest to a 61 Studebaker or Rambler, but this one does.
I don’t know off hand how well they sold new but these are incredibly rare to see these days. People either didn’t buy them or didn’t save them. Maybe both.
Production did drop off for 1961, with only 14,189 produced. Through most of the 1950’s production was averaging about 25,000-30,000 cars. But it dropped to about 20K in 1960 and again in 1961.
I actually wouldn’t be surprised in some of the Edsel styling cues went into the Meteor. They were styled in Dearborn. And I do agree, it was a rather homely car, especially compared to a 1961 Ford on which it was based.
Holy Oldsmobile, Batman!
Doesn’t the middle of that grille look bare? Like it needs something to fill in that space? How about a central styling element or divider a la ’60 Edsel? If I could find one of these in good but not concours-like condition, and get a bunch of Edsel trim, and make a what-if ’61 Edsel
Two points about rusty Canadian cars-
“Rusty Ford” became a meme in the ’70’s. I attribute this to the high scrap content in the steel that started to be used then.
Ontario rust is pretty tame compared to Montreal. I remember taking a two year old cab in downtown Montreal where I looked down to see the road passing by below my feet. The right rear footwell was attacked by the salt off passengers boots.
Wonderful story and very well-written article on the complexity of Ford’s automotive marketing. Being Canadian, I have always been fascinated by Canadian-only models and marques of cars in our country, There are so many to research. Does anyone else remember G.M.’s very short-lived 1-1/2 year wonder “Asüna” brand? It was a small collection of Geo imports sold at Pontiac/Buick dealers. Anyway, I thought I would have seen the 1958 Edsel discussed in this article, as, it did have a short-term impact in Canada regarding the dizzying branding efforts of trying to squeeze it in Ford’s overall product lineup. (mind you, I am not criticising here!) Awesome read, thank you!